25 December 2008

Bahrain Falls to Demonic Plans

News-Flash: Bahrain has been taken over by the demonic plans of a number of vicious and immoral companies, headed by Playboy. The bunny logo has been spotted everywhere from supermarkets, to perfume and accessories shops, and it renders anyone staring at it for more than 2 seconds to be transformed into an immoral sin-making-machine.

People have been seen outside in the streets committing acts of adultery, as well as violence and theft. Rape and murder are on the increase, as Playboy and it's partners continue to place the logo in highly visible locations, entrancing it's victims to live an existence of sin.

Oh yeah; another strike by our lovely MP's; you know, those people voted in as part of the governments measures to fix the economical, societal and political issues that the country faces.

But what do they do? They object to having rabbit logos everywhere.

Yup, the infamous playboy bunny. Now we all know that Playboy publishes a well-known magazine, which breaches Islamic values, but apparently this is enough to ban the sales of everything bearing the company logo, whether it's perfume, accessories, or anything else, no matter how harmless these products are.

I don't think the MP's understand that this is a 'brand'. You know, like Coca Cola? McDonalds? Mercedes? Sony? It doesn't represent a specific image (especially not those from those magazine you hide under your bed, Mr. MP). It's just a bloody brand. Get over it; our youth won't get corrupted from seeing a cartoon image of a rabbit head everywhere.

I pray for you to be kind to the real rabbit's around the country, because the way this is going, we just might see rabbit hunts and cruelty towards them on the increase.

Call for 'Playboy' boycott
25 December 2008

A CALL to withdraw all Playboy products from Bahrain's market went out from an MP yesterday. The company produces a magazine that goes against Islamic values and must be banned from selling other products in Bahrain, said parliament's legislative and legal affairs committee vice-chairman Shaikh Jassim Al Saeedi.

He said that he was shocked to see that many products with Playboy's logo were being sold in the market.

Mr Al Saeedi is now urging the Industry and Commerce Ministry to carry out immediate inspections on shops and stores to remove the products.

"Playboy items are produced by the same US company, which produces the magazine famous for its indecency and immorality," said Mr Al Saeedi.

"There are a lot of Playboy products - ranging from perfumes, accessories, make-up items and women's clothes - being sold in our market, giving the message that we agree with what this company is doing.

"Who allowed those products to enter the market? How are they being marketed at shops and stores?

"What is Industry and Commerce Ministry doing to stop this market invasion?"

"People should also help us get these products removed from the market, in view of the harm this brand may cause to our Islamic society," said Mr Al Saeedi.

"The availability of those products in our markets is just the first of many steps to invade us morally and intellectually.

"There are other companies trying to do the same and they should be stopped too, before our society falls victim to their demonic plans."

19 December 2008

Bush Press Conference Security

New security measures used at all upcoming President Bush press conferences (click for large size):

13 December 2008

Good Music Videos

Lol. I heard a song on the radio yesterday, a song I actually know from a few years back with a pretty funky video, which prompted me to look it up. There's not much real life in today's music videos; most have some guy standing and singing (trying to sing) in front of a bunch of expensive cars, people dancing around in a club, some girl playing a piano by the beach somewhere, or something equally cliche.

This was pretty funky though; besides the tune (which will stick in your head and repeat itself over for the rest of the day if you're not careful), whoever came up with the idea and directed this video needs some sort of award; there's a specific 2 or 3 second clip for every note/sound/tune in the video, which is shown every time that sound comes up in the song, and putting them together just works out really well.

There's no real point to the video, but it's creative and fun - enjoy:

Wiseguys - Start the Commotion

9 December 2008

The June Bug


Title = Garbage
More than just rubbish.
Closed Down.
No, moved!
New blog.


For all of you who are a little slow and didn't get that, our lovely blogger June, who used to write 'Garbage', has moved to a new blog! Very simple. She's pretty awesome, and a fun read too. Why should you read her blog? Well, because she just had an encounter with Paul McCartney, and you didn't.

That should sum it up.

Go now; June Bug

8 December 2008

Just another five minutes at the checkout counter...

'Twas the night before Eid, and the stores were superbusy with everyone rushing to get their last minute shopping done, just in time for the festivities the next day. I was at a hypermarket getting a few basics, five minutes before closing time, and looked around for an empty lane to pay and leave through the busy crowds of shoppers, all dressed in their warm jackets and sweaters, keeping away the cold of the winter outside (and the frozen foods section).

As the case always is with Bahrain, the '10 items or less' counter is always lined up with queues of people buying trolleyfulls of rubbish, so the concept of buying a few small items really doesn't mean you're getting out of there much faster than anyone else. I waited as the truckloads of groceries and household goods infront of me were loaded onto the checkout counter, and everything seemed to move slowly but smoothly.

As I waited, I dazed off to a warm beach on a far away land, relaxing on the golden sands next to a cool blue sea. People played beach volleyball to the sounds of funky reggae tunes, while others just basked in the sun or swam in the sea. The waves were smooth, swayed around by the light breeze, as the sounds of an angry screaming lady rang in the background.


I came out of my little daydream, only to realize the lady in the line infront was shouting at the checkout assistant. I wondered what had happened during the few minutes on my island, and realized that one of the items she wanted to buy had no tag on it. The checkout guy requested one of the staff members to get another one of the items to price it, and the whole process seemed to be taking a little over a minute or two, which seemed to be too much for little screaming woman to wait.

"What kind of service is this?!" she shouted as her tempers started to reach the boiling point. "I have things to do and I can't waste my time waiting for your people to get a tag!"

Classic example of idiotism and intolerance. First of all, if you're so damn busy and don't have much time to waste, explain how long you wasted filling up two trolleyfulls of stuff? Second, this is a huge hypermarket, sometimes tags tend to fall off things, are removed by other customers, or disappear for whatever reason, get over it. Third, the checkout guy is doing his job and hasn't been inefficient in any way. He even tried explaining to the lady what the problem was, to be met with more screaming and howling. Fourth, if your time really is that important, why don't you just leave your untagged budget pyjamas for today, pay for everything else and leave?

Lots of people overestimate the concepts of customer service. It's not even taking them for granted, it's actually expecting everything to be totally perfect. Sure, I can understand that businesses try to aim for it, but in most cases, this isn't a utopia, and things don't always come out flawless.

This situation was a little silly, considering that this was a normal inconvenience, and a pretty common occurence, especially considering the size of this hypermarket; the lady really didn't need to get too upset. Also, she let out all of her fury on the checkout guy, who was actually doing a good job, probably had nothing to do with the cause of the situation, and really has no way of fixing it in the long term; any complaints should be directed to either management or customer service.

Get over it woman. Unless your service has been compromised directly by this guy, shouting at him really doesn't do much more than make you look like a bit of an ass to everyone around you. And this goes out to all of you reading this; if you get served by anyone, just know that they're usually trying their best (well, usually). You're probably the hundredth person they've had to deal with today, and i'm willing to bet quite a few have acted (unnecessarily) like miss howling woman here. If they've still got a smile on and doing their job, give them a break.

The tag finally came, and the lady took her budget pyjamas and left. Checkout dude heaved a sigh of relief, as did most of the shoppers around who had to listen to her shouting. I got my items checked, paid, took my change, and gave the guy a heartfelt 'thank you'.

He smiled, and I left. More shoppers, more tags to check, more items to sell. Just another five minutes at the checkout counter.

4 December 2008

Mall Randomness

No matter how many things we have to do in Bahrain, somehow we still end up cruising around the malls.. Passed by Seef and City Center malls yesterday; a few fun pics from both (click for large size):

Here's what happens when you mix our culture with the West; tadaaaa, Baklava Blizzard at Dairy Queen! (If you don't already know, Blizzard's are ice creams infused with some sort of cookies, chocolate chips, etc. Baklava is a traditional Arabic pastry dessert) The two actually don't taste bad together at all!

Speaking of mixing East and West, check out our very own Bahraini Christmas trees, with the whole Arabic theme going on and all:

Buying phones: You can either get the original Nokia, or you can get the Chinese version! Half the size, half the price!

This has got to be the most boring job in the world; you see, there's a special stand in the cinema for HSBC credit card holders (some sort of privilege you get for signing up for an HSBC credit card). It doesn't really offer any benefits besides having a special queue; ie, no special seats, no free popcorn, no nothing. Now first of all, the most i've had to wait in the cinema queue is about 3 or 4 minutes, and that's at an extreme. Usually I have to wait more like 30 seconds, if not immediately since the stands are hardly busy. Second of all, HSBC accounts cover less than 10% of Bahrain's population, and most of these people have savings accounts, and not credit cards. Third of all, not all of these credit card holders are regular movie-goers by any means; therefore leading to this really really bored lady in the HSBC privilege stand on the right, with hardly any work to do:

Oh, and the regular cinema stands didn't actually have anyone in the queue.

Moving on... Someone is obviously not happy with people eating or smoking in his shop!!!! (Can you add a few more exclamation marks please? I don't quite seem to get it).

Then it was off to City Center, the mall of funny mannequins. No seriously, I don't think the people in the shops here understand the concept of them:

Yes, uhh, those things are used to put clothes on, actually... But even when they figure out that you can put clothes on them, they still can't strike the right pose:

This mannequin sort of says: "This suit feels so good, it makes me want to pee!"

Of course, we couldn't pass up the opportunity for a hot Krispy Kreme donut! Red light is on, warm donuts coming out!

And I decided i've had enough with waiting, I finally got myself a Blackbery Bold! Yuppeeee!

Same night I saw the news about the Nokia N97 coming out sometime next month! Dammit!

Anyway, that's enough mall hopping for today! Go get yourselves a donut or something.

22 November 2008

19 November 2008

The Toy Store

I guess after a while of growing up, we all get caught up in a world of business, stress, responsibility, tasks and so much more. It all becomes a lot and it sort of dulls us down from the (hopefully) exciting people we were back in college, school, or whatever we were previously. We work more, put our mind into achieving what we need to achieve, not doing what we want.

Not me, not today.

We walked around City Center Mall sort of bored; my friend was looking for something specific to buy - work related obviously - and we managed to stumble upon this huge toy shop:

Not that we usually go inside most toy shops we see, but this one had a really cool full-size dragon in the window! Yup, a huge mutha, twice the size of most people; anyhow, that got us inside the shop, and we started walking around this childrens' wonderland:

These guys had everything; stuffed dolls, robots, flying remote-controlled helicopters, science-experiment-game-type-thingies, board games, and a lot more.. Sure beats what we had when we were kids; I remember we used to get things like those bags of plastic green soldiers; what a load of crap those were, some couldn't even stand straight and kept falling. But yeah, today's kids have got it all sorted out huh?

Looking through all these toys, we figured, yeah, it would be nice to be a child in today's world. On our way out, we passed by the model section; models of cars, boats and planes, and I stopped and looked at them.. Wow, I remember putting these things together back when I was a kid, and, damn; the more I looked, the more I wanted one! The guys told me I was being silly, but I wouldn't leave the store without one (sort of reminds me of when I was younger and my mom would try to drag me out of random toy shops).

I picked up a model plane, and while contemplating whether this thing might be a little too simple to hold any interest for me, I saw the label on the side. Number 4, it said. A key on the back explained what 4 meant, on a scale of 1-5:

1- Easy, snap on kits not requiring any glue or paint.
2 - Simple kits with up to 30 parts to glue and paint.
3- More demanding models with up to 100 parts.
4- Kits with up to 150 parts for more experienced modellers
5- Difficult models with over 150 parts requiring a very high level of skill
paid, and went on my merry way, gleeful in the thought that I got myself a toy!

Cool! I rushed to the counter, paid, and made my way home gleeful in the knowledge that I had just bought myself a toy! Lovely, I feel all child-like again!

I got home, ripped open the box, and figured that I was faced with a hell of a task; putting together all these pieces needed a LOT of time and effort, and the 20 page instruction booklet looked like something out of a mechanical engineering graduate book. Crap. But a challenge, no? :p Looks like fun! I'll document progress over the next few days (Weeks? Months?).

If you don't see anything on this topic in the next while then just know i've already given up on it, and perhaps I should leave the toy world to the kids!

17 November 2008

Music of Days Gone By

I've got millions upon millions of discs (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth is I have quite a lot). These include anything from original music CD's (which I stopped actively buying sometime around the turn of the century), to VCD's, DVD's, a few laser discs (the technology that never really took off), but mostly, I have tons of CD's and DVD's holding backup data, images, files, music, etc.

Through years of backing up data, copying music, creating mp3 CD's, etc, these discs have managed to accumulate into a large pile of unlabeled rubbish. The process is simple; you burn a disc with whatever on it, and then you look for your permanent CD marker pen, which always seems to get lost at that exact moment. You then decide, ok, i'll write something on this later, which you never do, and a few years later you have hundreds of CD's with no obvious description of what's inside them. Of course, a day comes where you're looking for a specific file you managed to back up ages ago.


So today was the day; I looked at my unlabeled CD collection with a mixture of emotions; confused, horrified, amazed.. How on earth am I suppose to find that file?

So I decided i'd fix this whole mess by going out and buying a set of 4 CD markers, sat down in front of my computer with a table covered in discs, and started going through them one by one, figuring out what they contained and labeling them as required.

I found quite a bit; photos from college days, random videos, an old CV, lots of music, and quite a bit more. Of course, through the years your discs get mixed in together, and between every 4 or 5 unlabeled CD's is a DVD or an original music CD.

I found an old music CD I bought years ago; 1993 to be precise (Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince; Code Red). Great album, really, and I decided to play it; although a few of the tracks were a bit cheesy, others were great, and the whole album sounded amazing and took me to a much simpler time a good 15 years ago. I was in a different place in the world, in school, hardly any responsibility, and the vibe was nice and chilled out.

But it wasn't just that; there was something different about the music itself. The music felt richer, deeper, and much stronger than most of the tracks I listen to nowadays.

Why is that?

It's not that this album was specifically done really well. It was a good album, but nothing overly special about it, except that it sounded amazing.

I decided to rip some of the tracks to mp3 to play in my car later, and that's when it hit me; the music here wasn't compressed. The music isn't as compressed as mp3's are nowadays. The music isn't compressed to fit a small file size of a few MB per track.

I pondered; on regular music CD's, you could fit a good 15 tracks or so on the CD before it got full. That's an average of around 40mb per song, while today's mp3's rarely go above 6 or 7mb. Compression means loss of quality, and although mp3 music does sound clear, listening closer you can feel the difference; certain small instruments get lost, some of the not so obvious tunes get compromised, and although the song is the same in general, it's the small touches that give a song it's depth that are gone.

Most people can't tell the difference, or can't be bothered to tell the difference, to be honest. Music has changed from something that lives with you, to something disposable, tracks that you listen to a few times and then replace, shifting from classics, to hits. The subtle underlying tunes don't matter to most people, and go unnoticed.

It's not all bad though; the mp3 revolution has made music much more accessible to everyone. It has managed to open up the market for loads of new musicians around the world. Getting what you want whenever you want is becoming more and more possible by the day. The big labels are losing money on physical distribution, struggling to find solutions to make money through digital sales, while new companies spring up all the time offering music online. The world is growing smaller, and now it's much more easier to listen to music from parts of the world you never thought you would be listening to. There's a lot going on, and a lot more to come in the coming months.

For now, just leave me with my old uncompressed albums, while I enjoy vibes of days gone by.

"Can you feel it? Come on, clap your hands, wind it up if you're feelin alright, clap your hands, wind it up, if you're feelin' the vibe, nod your head from side to side, as we ride the vibe, cuz it's a party all night, You can't fight the feelin' you're feelin'g cuz you're feelin' fine with nothin really on ya mind.."

Oh, and I haven't found the file I wanted yet, either.

5 November 2008

Guys & Girls; Greetings & Hello's

I was sleeping.

*ring ring*

Who could be calling me at this ungodly hour (ahem, 10am)? I picked up..

- الو؟‎

- ها، ليلحين راقد؟
Ha.. You're still sleeping?

- شرايك يعني، شتبي؟
What does it sound like? What‏‎'s up?

- تعال خذني من يورو موترز بعد عشر دقايق
Pick me up from the EuroMotors showroom in 10 mins

- ثلث ساعة
20 mins.

- اوكي
*Hangs up*

This was a guy i've been friends with for years, but haven't seen in ages. It's amazing being a guy; things are just so straightforward and simple, no headaches with feelings and make-believe emotions etc.

I can picture the same conversation with two girls;

*ring ring*

- الو؟‎

- امووون! وي صج صج من زمااااان!! شلونج شخبارج؟!
Amoon! Wowwwwww it's been sooooo long!! How are youuu how's everything?!

- فطومووو وينج انتي وااايد وحشتيني!!!
Fatooommooo! Nooo, where have you been!! I missed you so muchhh!!

- ... اي والله! شلون ابوج و امج و اخوج و اختج و ربعج و قطوتج و
Yeah I know! Hows your dad? And mom? And brother and sister and your friends and cat and...

...and so the conversation goes on for half an hour discussing the most pointless issues, not evening getting to the point which is 'come pick me up'. No no no. That's not how it works for girls; this has to be a preliminary conversation a week prior to calling another girl to ask her to pick you up (otherwise, it's considered rude). All this and the girls haven't seen each other since last weekend.

Funny stuff. Another thing I notice is when girls meet each other in a restaurant/shop/mall/etc and greet each other (this is more specifically true of Middle-Eastern girls, I dunno about outside this region). The greeting is composed of different stages; the first is the one where they spot each other and act totally amazed (hence the big eyes, running to each other, usually screaming), then comes the second stage of greetings which is made of up of endless kissing and hugging, then the post-greeting stage, where they sit and ask each other everything from how they're doing, how their family and friends are, what they've been up to at work/college, to what perfume they're wearing and whether they got fatter/thinner.

You might think it's a bit of an exaggeration but it's not. It becomes more clear that these greeting rituals are ridiculous especially when you find out they haven't seen each other since... Again, about last weekend.

I prefer the guy greetings; you're walking down the road, you spot a friend you haven't in YEARS on the other side of the road, and he spots you too. You raise a thumbs up:

- Hey.

- Hey.

Done, end of story; move on, nothing to see here, no endless streams of fake emotions or hugging. And this is an extreme greeting; on a normal day, a simple head nod would do; no need for words or thumbs up.

It's great to be a guy.


Election Time...

So whose going to win? Who knows... But Obama promised everyone change;

He didn't specify what type of change though; would be funny if he comes out after winning the race and just starts handing out pennies to people..

Anyway, if he does win, i've got a gut feeling there's going to be some sort of assassination attempt in there somewhere; hey, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the guy, but all it takes is one person who doesn't want a Black president for things to escalate.


This race has dragged on far too long, and it's turned more into a TV drama soap/sitcom than anything else.


Obama/McCain. It's 2:00am over here in Bahrain, and i'm heading to bed. Let's see what the polls say when I wake up tomorrow. What a different world it could be.

1 November 2008

The Wailers @ Coral Beach Bahrain

I just got back from what has got to be one of the greatest concerts i've ever been to; The Wailers performing live in Bahrain at the Coral Beach Club. If you don't already know who they are, you might be more familiar with the name "Bob Marley & The Wailers". Yes, they are the backing group for the Reggae legend, and are already a legend in themselves.

Reggae holds something different than most other types of music; sure, it's got a great beat and is something you can dance to, but the vibe real reggae fans feel is one of totally losing themselves to the music.

The concert was great; held in the perfect surroundings of Coral Beach, with a nice cool breeze and a chilled out vibe by the warm-up acts, made for a perfect setting. The real magic, however, was when the Wailers hit the stage; dropping their funky reggae tunes, and suddenly the crowd was transformed. People weren't just dancing, they were lost to the music, they were all getting high off it, and it seemed that almost every single person was in some sort of trance; the crowd upfront were so ecstatic to be in the presence of greatness, and there were people all over just swaying, closed eyes, feeling the music, tasting it, experiencing it.

The Wailers started off with their own reggae vibes, and soon came in with the hits everyone knows, to which the crowd just went wild, singing along, chanting together music based on anti-discrimination, anti-oppression, and being all as one. The crowd was filled with all sorts of races, from numerous countries, and yet there they were all as one, singing and swaying to One Love, No Woman No Cry, Jammin', and more.

The night was an overdose of adrenaline, emotions, and by the end of the 6 hour concert, everyone went home with a smile and a pocket full of memories. An amazing night, one to remember, and here to prove that the reggae legend is still alive and as strong as ever.

20 October 2008

Back to the Past (Retail is obviously suffering)

After a trip to the future (see my last post), we managed to pass by Manama Souq. Now, for any of you who read my post about retail suffering and disagreed, you need to see this to believe it. Passing by a few retailers in the Souq, I came across this:

Looks like a normal shop right? Ok, maybe if it was 1985 or so. Although a pretty large shop in quite a prime area of the market, this is what the shop actually had in it's window:

I swear I remember that blender from when I was 8 years old. And when you think about it, the best stuff is usually what's displayed in the window... Which means I don't even want to think about the age of stuff they have inside!

Yeah, a mechanical can opener; so 80's. And it's actually the size of little TV!

It's 2008. They're still trying to get these things sold. Whoever said retail in Bahrain wasn't suffering, here's your proof that it is! lol...

16 October 2008

I've Seen the Future..

Looking for some some office space around Manama, one of the options was the Financial Harbor; quite a feat of engineering and design, the place was very reminiscent of some of the old cartoons and movies I used to watch years ago that portrayed the future. Narrow corridors, dimly lit, huge glass panes viewing an outside world that you can't access (mainly due to the poisonous atmosphere caused by years of pollution and nuclear testing). Think a mixture of the Jetsons, Total Recall, Minority Report, and a few other futuristic movies;

Look at that lighting up on the ceiling, isn't that just the least reminiscent of some sort of alien architecture? Just walking around in these dark, semi-empty tight corridors...

More narrow hanging alleyways, fully made of glass, giving you space to see the outside world, that you can't step into... (because of the toxic atmosphere, of course). Meanwhile, huge machines build self-sustained communities in large buildings, to secure the future of humankind...

More alien architecture... Narrow, dark corridors, you can almost hear the "Twilight Zone" music playing in the background... And it probably would not have looked out of place to see an alien walking by, or a man with a huge round glass helmet on his head..

There were a hell of a lot of lifts and escalators to get people from one place to another...

All dark, metallic, is this what the future looks like? So separated from the outside world through thick plates of glass; scary stuff... It was one hell of a relief to leave and see the real world again!

Driving on towards Manama souq, we stepped out of the future, and about 30 years into the past! More on this in my next post, tommorow...

14 October 2008

Fasten your Seat Belts

A quick visit to Geant/Bahrain Mall today prompted a bit of thought. Driving through the massive parking lot, something felt different, looked different. Nothing had been changed or moved, nothing added. But the place felt, empty:

Can you see it? This was a regular weekday night, and the parking rows by the main entrance were free. To be perfectly honest, since it's opening I don't remember a single day where the parking looked this empty; sure, there were the quiet days, but even then the rows closest to the door were busy.

The reason is pretty apparent; with the opening of City Center Mall, which offers everything from multiple food courts, all the brands you can think of, hypermarket, and everything else in between all packaged nicely in a huge shopping mall, the surrounding malls definitely take a hit. Bahrain Mall wasn't the only casualty; Seef Mall is obviously suffering with a few shops closures (that transferred to City Center) and reduced traffic even on weekends. So has Dana Mall. So has A'ali Mall. And so has the general retail industry in Bahrain.

So you would assume that, to have an actual thriving business, you should open up in City Center, correct?

Seems the answer to that is also negative. A quick trip to City Center verifies that the mall is so big that, even on a busy day, the place still isn't very busy. The number of customers in each mall has been spread so thin that you start to wonder about the losses some of these retailers are starting to face; especially with the over-inflated prices they pay for store rental.

Between 2005-2007, the population of Bahrain grew by almost 25% (most of which seemed to be happening under the table), sustaining all sorts of growth; growth in real estate, land prices, new retailers, etc. However, with the discovery of this last year, cases were opened into why this was allowed to happen without transparency and regulation, and this has caused the ridiculous boom in Bahrain's population growth to stop.

However, one thing doesn't stop; the continued opening of new retail shops, continued building of towers, business offices, and so on. But without the growth in population to sustain it.

Are we looking at the makings of another market crash? This time one that isn't affected by the outside forces of the US financial meltdown, but rather one that was inspired by our own naivety? Factor into that the slowly approaching woes of a global market depression, and it seems that we're heading for quite a bit of a rough ride.

Fasten your seat-belts.

9 October 2008

HalaBahrain - October

HalaBahrain; Bahrain's first & only online magazine, covering entertainment, events, places to go, things to do, and much more!

The October issue is now: read it online or download it at www.HalaBahrain.com (and don't forget to subscribe free to get it in your email every month!).

7 October 2008

The Wake Up Call

I'm in a 5-star hotel lobby reading a copy of Gulf News, the UAE's primary English newspaper, and one that caters to quite a large percentage of the population. The newspaper is made up of 36 pages; 21 of those are full page advertisements for properties or some sort of real estate projects. Out of the other 15 pages, 7 have smaller advertisements for real estate/properties, and every other page covers some sort of real estate news.

Opposite me is a table with three Arab businessmen in their thobs, and an Arab lady in a suit. One of the men is looking at what seems to be a blueprint for a project (sounds like a residential tower), and seems to be on the verge of investing a considerably large amount into it as the lady encourages him to sign the papers.

The table next to me is surrounded by English businessmen, five of them, discussing the specifics of a project with another thob wearing local. The conversation gets heated as they get excited about what is being offered; I don't quite catch what it is, but it sounds like some type of luxury resort. Smiles and laughs abound, as success shines in everyone's eyes.

CNN is showing on a large TV in a distant corner of the lobby. The headline 'Market Crash' flashes across the bottom of the screen, as the newsreader mentions another mortgage-related financial disaster on the other side of the globe. Images of laid-off employees followed by more reports of asset liquidations and expensive corporate bailouts.

Two different sides of the world, two different worlds in themselves. Scary to see how leveraged this region is, in terms of a sector related to the market crash in other regions. Scary to see how the market meltdown has started in the U.S., and slowly started to spread to the rest of the world. Scary to see overconfidence in a market so unbelievably fragile, with no effort being made to shield away from the impending disaster. And scary to see people asleep to the fact that this whole situation might blow over any day now.

Ignoring the obvious warning signs, the issues facing the global community that feel so far away, it's hard to tell we're heading for disaster, a disaster we're being naive enough to discount as an unrealistic possibility. More projects are being set up, more investments are being taken, and more risks are being thrown on the table, yet everyone sleeps to the fact that this dream isn't going to last for ever.

We might be in for that wake up call very, very soon.

4 October 2008

Bringing in the New...

Bahrain's a tiny little country; I guess living in such a small island, we've been accustomed to the fact that everyone knows everyone else, and somehow most people here are intertwined. This is usually a nice perk to living in a small place, especially when it comes to building relations, making friends, knowing where to find certain things, etc.

It does weigh a few things down though; being in such a small place also means that you know exactly what you're surrounded by. There are no suprises, there are no mysteries, and everything comes as it is. What this does to the average Bahraini mentality, however, is allow a form of acceptance of your surroundings to reign over; you adapt, you don't need to change, you're more relaxed, but somehow you're also more lazy.

In Bahrain, things usually stay the same until something big comes and shakes them out of proportion. If a road is built with a major design flaw, the design flaw stays, until it causes a major traffic accident forcing people to fix the road. If a specific building doesn't have enough assigned parking space, no new parking spaces will be built, until the tenants decide they've had enough of the issue and decide to leave forcing the owner to put new parking spots in (both true examples, by the way). The culture has managed to become generally reactive, pushing the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" to a whole new level (don't fix it unless you really really have to).

This goes for everything from medicine, to education, to entertainment, and so on. Interestingly enough, a show this weekend has shaken the entertainment scene in Bahrain, and we're probably on the verge of seeing something new appear.

Live entertainment in Bahrain is generally restricted to music events and nightclubs. There really isn't much to define entertainment besides that (except the rare circus act, or football match that isn't usually worth going to). The playing field has now been open to... Yes, Stand Up Comedy!

Stand-Up Comedy has been pretty popular in the USA and a bunch of other countries for quite a while, but in Bahrain, the concept hasn't even been thought of until this weekend, when we had The Axis of Evil perform their hilarious forms of sarcasm and wit. This isn't the defining point, however. The defining point is actually the fact that the show introduced a number of different talented local comedians; and they probably made the crowds roar almost as much as the professional comedians did.

So this strikes a question; are we ready for stand up comedy? Are we going to be seeing comedy club open up all over Bahrain?

Well, probably not, but we've actually been bombarded with such a strong performance by both Axis and our local guys that everybody enjoyed, that it makes you want to seriously consider going to future comedy events here, even if they weren't an international act.

So perhaps, slowly, we might see a few more comedy acts pop up here and there, and slowly, a few more. And maybe one day a comedy club? A comedy school? The developments can go on and on...

Sure, the comedy show could have been a flop; people might not have been interested, and it may not have taken off. But then again, that's the risk you take for bringing in something new; if it's fails, it fails. But if it succeeds, then you've really done something special.

The point here is that we're not just looking at the development of entertainment; we're looking at the development of a country. Pushing ourselves to come up with something new, something unique, something different, and essentially something to add value to Bahrain. We've seen a lot of people take things for granted, and just follow the same route everyone else takes, without really putting in anything new.

Isn't it time for that? More creativity? More ideas? We know we have the skill and the ideas, we just need to have the courage and energy to put it all together.

(for more on the comedy show, check out BahrainTalent)

29 September 2008

Sorry! Can't wear that!

When does it start getting too much? When does it start pushing the boundaries of religion and common sense, and just moves into the territory of plain stupidity? Well, for Saudi Arabia, that line has probably been crossed so long ago, no one remembers it even existed.

We all know the Saudi system is a bit on the extreme side, but somehow just as the world starts to think that maybe, just maybe, things in the country will start to improve, they come out with new rules and laws that assures us that the country will remain in the dark ages for quite a while.

We understand the extreme side to interpreting religion; so you want to cover up your women and make sure that the smallest area of flesh doesn't show. We get that. You don't want your women to drive, so that they don't go out alone, either to be flirted with, or to have the power to go wherever they want whenever they want (obviously to flirt with guys). We get that too. We get all of your other stupid and nutty rules, not through logic or common sense, but through endless exposure to them. But one thing I don't understand, is this new rule;

Saudi religious police in abaya crackdown

Saudi Arabia's religious police are cracking down on adorned abayas in the run-up to Eid Al-Fitr and have threatened shopkeepers with fines and even prison for selling the black robes with any form of decoration.

Shopkeepers in the kingdom's capital Riyadh said they are having to turn away customers, many of whom are looking to buy more fashionable abayas with patterned, beaded or colourful trim, the UK's Financial Times reported on Saturday.

Decorative abayas are becoming increasingly popular in the Gulf as women's dress codes are relaxed. However the liberalisation, though only slight, has angered some conservatives...

Full Article

Now let's try and get some thing straight here; women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to dress up in anything but a black robe, have to cover their hair and face, and so that's totally destroyed all chances for women to have any sort of personality. Now the only small personalization they're actually able to do, is put a few basic designs on their abaya (which aren't really very extravagant) and now even that's being taken away from them?

What do you expect them to do? Give them no other choice to do anything in their lives? There are some serious issues here with the current state of Islam, and not just Saudi Arabia; the phrase of the year (or the past few years to be exact) seems to be "ban it". If they don't like it, they ban it; whether it's a TV show, a type of clothing, or anything else.

There's something very flawed with this theory. When you ban something, without providing something else to replace it, you get a void. When you ban something else, again without a replacement, you get a bigger void, and so on and so forth until there's a ridiculously huge void in people's lives, which they start to fill with negative actions. Want proof? Just watch some of the Saudi's that cross over the causeway to greet us on weekends.

What's wrong with the religion of Islam nowadays, is the extremist nuts that sit at the top. Somehow we need to eliminate those from coming up with ridiculous rules and laws, but whose to stop them without them using their "you're going against Islam" card?

Complex problem. Anybody got a solution?

21 September 2008

Cartoon Creativity

Ramadan 2006; the typical khaleeji family gathers to eat and drink after a long day of fasting, followed by hours of being slumped at the TV to watch the regular, bland TV shows. TV shows that covered topics that have been over and done with year after year, offering nothing new.

But not this year; this was 2006, and something was different. Apparently someone thought that taking the khaleeji culture, turning it into a funny cartoon, and throwing in a few modern day topics seemed like a good idea. And a good idea it was; "Freej" instantly caught on with both children and adults, becoming an instant hit and appealing to the crowds that watched. Although essentially Emarati, all khaleeji's could somehow relate to this cartoon; the story of four old traditional women, caught up in the fast-evolving changing world that is Dubai.

All those originally from the region somehow managed to relate; the older people who had seen the Gulf countries develop from tiny villages and deserts to huge international cities, the teenagers who have brief memories of days when things were much more simple, and the children who have finally found a cartoon that has characters from their part of the world, rather than anime monsters and superhuman robots.

And yes, it was a creative concept; a cool breeze of fresh air in a region where Ramadan TV shows every year seemed to bring the same old thing. Although the viewers loved it, most TV show producers turned their heads. It was just a cartoon after all, why should they bother with such a childish concept?

Freej went on to grow with a marketing strategy to spread it's brand to dolls, toys, branded clothes, stationary and much more (and yes, they all sold like crazy). Freej was everywhere; in children's bedrooms, at your local DVD store, and the characters were even found in various festivals and events.

Now, the TV show producers started to notice; their initial impressions that this was a childish short-term thing were apparently wrong. Freej was one hell of a brand that was marketed right, and stole a niche in the Ramadan TV show market that no one even knew existed.

So what do we get for Ramadan now? A million different cartoon/animated shows.. Seems the producers figured that animated shows were actually the way to go, and so they just dropped all their effort into coming up with mind-numbing stories animated with the newest graphics and animation technologies..

Err.. No..

That's not what made Freej popular. It wasn't the fact that the animation and graphics were advanced. It was partly the stories it portrayed, the issues it addressed, the thought and passion of it's producer (who I have utmost respect for, way to go), which showed in every detail of it, from sound production, to script, to everything else.

But no, these producers figured they could just slap on some hi-tech graphics, and instantly achieve the success of Freej. Unfortunately most of them are total misses, try hard to be funny (and fail), and have stories that, although based in the region, are hardly related to anything here, and are actually a bit of a drag to watch.

The point is, this topic isn't just about Ramadan TV shows. It's about the Gulf countries in general; One GCC country achieves great success in building luxury resorts and properties, so the surrounding countries decide to copycat the concepts hoping to achieve the same success. One GCC country builds a Formula One track bringing in attention from the whole world, and all of a sudden 2 others want to build their own F1 tracks too. Tallest tower in the world? Nope, a few other countries decide they'll build their own tallest tower.

But it's all for the best right? We're all growing right?

Wrong. We're all biting at each other, and minimizing the chances for each others' success, rather than working together to help complement each other with different services and products.

And unfortunately, this trend of copycatting everything seems to continue. What we need is more original ideas. Why don't we see investment in technology? Science? Energy? Entertainment?

Creativity guys. Bring it on, that's what we need.

17 September 2008

Cats > Dogs (Introducing Stealth Ninja Cat)

Although it's been said that a dog is a man's best friend, you really can't mess with the cool, calm collective mentality of a cat. Sure, your dog will run up and greet you as soon as you walk through the door, but your cat, on the other hand, will just sit there and give you an ice-cold stare that says "I own this place".

Yup. Attitude and character; cat's have a lot of it. The cat in this video in particular, has more character than most. It's been fully trained in stealth martial arts, and can go ninja on you without you even realizing; take a look - the cat comes closer and closer without moving.

Or without you even REALIZING it's moving.

And before you know it, it's all over you and BOOM!

Total respect. If any of you dog lovers out there want to prove dogs are cooler, well, sure, just send me a video that beats this one.

16 September 2008

Got Black Magic Problems?

Google built their empire on contextual advertising; ie, anyone can have an advert up in Gmail, Google searches, etc, based upon similar content you search for or read about.

But sometimes you get... Well... Just take a look for yourselves (click for large size):


Umm... Ok, let's read it again...

Nullify Black Magic

Okay, an interesting title, wonder what this ad is all about?

Expert Indian Vedic Rituals

Ah great, just the sort of service I was looking for and couldn't find in my local yellow pages...

Remove all sort of Evil Effect

Yeah, sure sure... Can you prove it?

500% True

500%! That means it's not just one hundred percent true, not two hundred percent true, no, not even three hundred percent. Nope, you've got a FULL FIVE HUNDRED PERCENT. Holy crap, now you've definitely got me convinced that this thing is legit! Where do I sign up ?

14 September 2008

Trench Warfare

Those pigeons won't even see it coming...

Click for large size

9 September 2008

City Center Opening (T - 1)

So the big City Center is scheduled for it's 'soft launch' tomorrow! Finally, after months of construction, Bahrain's biggest mall is ready to welcome customers. Given though, it's not 100% complete; some of the shops won't be ready till the official launch in (hopefully) December, and the indoor waterpark + 2 hotels will finish sometime in 2009.

(click for large size)

Anyway, with a bit of free time on my hands, I decided to see if I can sneak a peek inside the closely guarded secret that is City Center. The place feels like some sort of special army base, since all the entrances are closed and heavily secured. The only possible entrance is the one through which all the employees/construction workers go, so I decided to head there:

The place feels like it's own community; it's got it's own roads, people walking around, huge parking lots. Huge place. Anyway; that proved unfruitful since, to actually get into the mall, you needed to go through a bunch of offices, all of which had employees not happy with my reason for coming (Uhhh, can I just like, look around?).

So that was that, and I decided it wasn't worth getting physical and beating them down to get an inside look. Got in my car and started to drive off, until I realized there was one side of the mall I assume no one had thought of securing off...

Yes! The desert side!

And so I drove all the way through the wilderness till I reached it, and somehow I was faced with a large lake that I had to cross:

With a touch of a button, my car magically turned into a boat, and I crossed the lake to the other side... (ok, not really, I just found a bit of land that I could drive across).

Lots of constructing going on to finish things for the soft-launch, as well as a bunch of deliveries arriving just in time. I tried to grab a few of the boxes and run, but I was given evil looks by the security guards...

The whole place seemed closed off, and I figured I would never get a chance to see the inside, until I spotted a small, open unguarded door on my way back to my car:

Finally, my chance! I ran through with my camera in hand, only to be faced by a number of ugly, mean-looking security guards! Took a quick shot before they dragged me out...

So there you have it! Exeeeeecccclllluuuhuuusive from ammaro.com, your first look inside City Center Mall! Launch is tomorrow, see ya there!